Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – Florence

In September, I traveled to Italy for two weeks with some of my family, which included an 85-mile, 6 day self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also spent time in Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii and Naples. 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:

Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Doors of Italy
Exploring Rieti
Self-Guided Walk Day 1
Self-Guided Walk Day 2
Self-Guided Walk Day 3
Castello Orsini Hotel
Self-Guided Walk Days 4 and 5
Self-Guided Walk Day 6
The Colosseum and Exploring Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum
Pompeii and Naples
Venice
Florence

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Well friends, this is it! My last post from this amazing trip! It took a little longer to share everything than I wanted it to, but regardless, I am so happy that I’ve created this platform that continues to serve as my own creative outlet and a way to stay connected with my family and friends. Thank you for tuning in!

The last stop on our trip was Florence, which we got to on a quick train ride to Venice. I will say that our train experience was pretty good. They are comfy enough (more than a plane in my opinion) and each time we needed to buy tickets we were able to find someone to help us make sure we were getting the right ones.

Now when people ask me how I enjoyed Florence, the first thing I tell them is that Florence didn’t get a fair chance to impress us. As the last stop on our 15 day trip, we were all just a little worn out, probably a little tired of each other and I was definitely so ready to be done walking around on a sprained ankle. But other than our own circumstances, Florence was beautiful and I want chance to visit it with fresh eyes again someday.

We covered a lot of the country and it was so interesting to see what made each city and region unique. Florence is home to some of the world’s most recognizable Renaissance art and architecture, and moves at a different pace than Rome or even Venice. I probably enjoyed the architecture most here and all of the warm Tuscan colors.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo.

The first day we arrived in the late morning and after making a beeline for some food, we spent the rest of the day mostly just wandering around the city. My two cousins were taking off the next morning a day earlier than the rest of us so we wanted to make sure that they got a quick taste of the city. I mentioned way back in one of my first posts that we ate gelato every day and I think we all agreed that the best gelato we found was in Florence.

On our one full day, after my cousins left, we decided to listen to our feet and got tickets for the Hop Off/Hop On bus. I’m so glad we did this. There was two different loops around the city that you could choose from, or even jump back and forth from at the few places where they intersected. If you chose to hop off, another bus would come about every 30 minutes. While you were on the bus there were headphones and a recorded tour guide to tune in to. I thought this service was a great option for us and other than one time when we got cut in line and then kicked off the bus because it was full, it was a positive experience.

One leg of the bus ride took us out of Florence and to a small hillside town Fiesole, where we decided to hop off and explore for a while and grab lunch.

This bridge is named the Ponte Vecchio. Until 1218, it was the only bridge in Florence that crossed the Arno River. It is known for having shops built along it, which traditionally was much more common than it is now. Originally this shops were occupied by butchers, but now it houses mostly jewelry and art.

One last piece of Italian pizza!

The Piazzale Michelangelo, is a 19th-century piazza with a bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David and a beautiful panoramic views over the city. We considered going into the museum that houses the real statue of David but decided that we were done with lines so we thought the replica with a view of the city was a good alternative.

After Florence, we headed back to Rome where I hopped on a flight back to the United States. The remaining members of my family actually had one more day in Rome where they took a tour of the Catacombs!

Well that’s it friends! This was such an amazing trip and one that I’ll always be so thankful that I got to share with my family. I have loved sharing it here with you on my blog, so thanks to everyone who stopped by! If you are planning a trip to Italy or even just considering one I would be happy to answer any questions and share more recommendations.

Until next time, arrivederci!

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum

In September, I traveled to Italy for two weeks with some of my family, which included an 85-mile, 6 day self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also spent time in Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii and Naples. 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:

Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Doors of Italy
Exploring Rieti
Self-Guided Walk Day 1
Self-Guided Walk Day 2
Self-Guided Walk Day 3
Castello Orsini Hotel
Self-Guided Walk Days 4 and 5
Self-Guided Walk Day 6
The Colosseum and Exploring Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum
Pompeii and Naples
Venice
Florence

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Hey friends, I’ve been busy with a few back-to-back work trips and then the holiday, so I had to take a break from sharing my trip to Italy. But I am back and ready to go with my last couple of posts!

I left off sharing part one of our time in Rome. Other than the afternoon we arrived, we had one full-day in Rome for exploring and an additional morning.

My favorite part of our time in Rome was the Basilica. I am not Catholic, but I love the history, architecture and art! This was probably my hardest group of pictures from the whole trip to sort through because I took SO MANY.

We knew we wanted to go and have enough time to enjoy it so we got there right as it was opening and virtually did not have to wait in line at all! We were so glad that we did because by the time we left about 2 hours later, the line wrapped around the entire square. It is free to go in but there was a small fee if you wanted to take the elevator to the base of the dome instead of the stairs, and with a bum ankle after a days of walking I took that option without a second thought.

The Basilica’s history is a bit complicated so instead of trying to summarize it, I’m just going to include a great link here 🙂

As we were walking up to the entrance I turned to my cousin and asked if he recognized what music was playing over the loud speakers… it was the theme song from the Rocky movies, who of course is also known as the Italian Stallion. We thought that was pretty funny.

The first part of the trek up via elevator or stairs takes you to the base of the dome so you can see the dome’s artwork up close and also see down. I’ve always loved history and have a strong appreciation for art so this is the kind of tourist stuff that I love. It all was absolutely beautiful.

The next part of the trek up takes you to the top of the dome and that part was not easy! First, you wind up around the dome so as you get higher you are at a slant, and then the final part is a very tight, winding stair case. Plus there is no ventilation or moving air, so if you are claustrophobic or have asthma, it might not be for you. It made me a little nauseous.

But the views were SO WORTH IT. The top takes you outside and gives you a 360 view of the Vatican City and Rome.

For reference, in this picture above, the highest point you can go to is right below where the columns are near the top!

Once you visit the top, it brings you down to roof before you go the rest of the way down to walk through the inside. These are the back of the statues that you can see in my first couple of pictures from the ground.

Let me just say that the few pictures of the inside here to not do it justice for how vast and beautiful it is. Again, I am not Catholic, but I was in awe of the Basilica and how almost peaceful it was inside, despite the large crowd.

I highly recommend making this a part of your itinerary on a trip to Rome.

Vatican Museum

The Vatican Museum is a separate experience from visiting the Basilica and one that does have a cost. I can’t remember what we paid, but this was another case where we decided to pay a little more to “skip the line,” mostly because that was the only way we were going to get in. We didn’t know that on Sundays, which was our main full day for exploring Rome, the museum is only open on the last Sunday of the month. We already had other set plans for Monday, so before leaving Rome on Tuesday, we made a quick stop there in the morning.

This was because the Vatican Museum is home to the Sistine Chapel – most famous for its ceiling, painted by Michelangelo – and was near the top of my bucket list to see. I just couldn’t bear being so close and not making it happen. Thankfully my family agreed and we made it work. We did have a little time to enjoy a few other exhibits, but I didn’t take that many pictures because either the lighting wasn’t great or it was too crowded.

There isn’t any photography allowed in the Sistine Chapel and I actually appreciate that. Mostly of course because it forces people to actually just take it all in, and also because photography flashes and the wrong kind of light can actually affect the paint.

The Sistine Chapel was absolutely incredible, and even more amazing to think that Michelangelo didn’t even consider painting to be his top trade. It was super crowded but I tried to work through it as slowly as I could and just enjoy it. It was interesting to see what parts of the bible I could identify easily. I enjoyed it so much that I ended up buying a history book on it for my coffee table!

Alright, I’ll be back soon with my posts on the others cities we visited. For those who have been following along with each post, thanks for your patience!

Thanks for stopping by!

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala